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  • September 29, 2020

Online Poker Dictionary: Small Ball Poker

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An increasingly popular approach and style of playing poker that was popularized by guys like Daniel Negreanu, is small ball poker. The idea behind the style is to play lots of hands more aggressively especially from late position and attempt to outplay your opponent post-flop to accumulate chips with little or no risk of going bust. Obviously blind stealing is an integral part of true “small ball” poker.
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To be proficient at small ball, you need to be strong at reading players and post-flop play.  Having position as much as possible helps to give you more information to make the necessary reads. Small ball is best left to experienced players, who seek to risk smaller portions of their stack in any one hand rather than their tournament life. If you play small ball poker correctly, the goal is to win more from opponents when they call you down with sub standard hands due to your loose and aggressive image than you lose from making consistent raises and bets without a strong hand. This is a reason why it is important to make small raises and bets instead of large, stronger bets.  The small bets and raises that you may win or lose pots with in earlier hands are just setting you up for bigger hands later on in the session.
It is important to pay attention to how your opponents are reacting to your play. If your opponents are not thinking about how you are playing, then you are going to have limited success. If other players at the table are loose and are going to call your bets regardless of what table image you project, then you are better off playing a tight-aggressive style rather than small ball poker.
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Why can small ball poker be effective?

  • Loose table image.
  • Opponents will call more often with weaker hands.
  • You can exploit this when you hold a strong hand.

This style of play can be very effective because you create a very loose table image for yourself. Therefore you should receive more action from opponents when you do have a big hand because they will perceive you as a loose aggressive player, and may feel that you are more likely to try and bluff them out of the pot.
If you play small ball poker correctly, in the long run the amount you win from opponents when they call you down with sub standard hands should outweigh the amount you lose from making consistent raises and bets without a strong hand. This is a reason why it is important to make small raises and bets instead of large, stronger bets.
Small ball poker benefits from players who call you down with mediocre hands because they do not give you credit for holding a strong hand.
The image you project onto the other players at the table is key to the success of the small ball concept. As already mentioned, the reason why this style of play is so effective is because your opponents will be more willing to call you down with marginal hands because of the way you have played in previous hands. So essentially, the small bets and raises that you may win or lose pots with in earlier hands are just setting you up for bigger hands later on in the session.
How to play small ball poker.

  • Small ball poker tips.
  • Play as many hands in position as you can.
  • Learn how to play post-flop well.
  • Use good starting hand selection.
  • When playing weaker starting hands, play hands that have drawing potential (can make flushes or straights).

When playing small ball, you have to try and take advantage of position as frequently as possible. It is not going to be an effective style of playing if you are raising 2.5BB from under the gun or in any early position on a regular basis. The chances are that you are going to get a caller and be out of position in a pot with a hand that is probably marginal.
Save the raises for when you are closer to the button and there are little to no players already in the pot. Playing small ball poker relies on you being able to play well post flop because you are entering so many pots and allowing other players to do so cheaply. It is going to be far easier to outplay your opponents if there are less of them in the hand and if you have position.
You have to be an experienced player to be able to profitably employ the small ball playing style.
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